Why African Leaders Don't want GE Foods

1. US presses Africa to take GM foods
2. Statement from Africa's FAO reps: 'Let Nature's Harvest Continue'


US presses Africa to take GM foods
Six countries beset by starvation reject offer of altered crops

John Vidal in Johannesburg
Friday August 30, 2002
The Guardian

The US was accused yesterday of putting intense pressure on United
Nations organisations, the European Union and individual countries to
support the export of GM food aid to six African countries facing severe
hunger in the coming months.

Three countries were insisting that the food be milled to prevent the
seeds being planted by farmers who may unwittingly pre-empt national

Zambia's chief scientific adviser said that if his country accepted
unprocessed food aid a precedent would be set undermining its legal and
democratic systems.

Together with Mozambique and Zimbabwe, which also initially refused to
accept GM food aid, Zambia insists that the food must be milled before
being handed out, because environmental risk assessments are impossible
with its limited resources.

At least a million tonnes of food are expected to be needed in the next
six months to feed up to 12 million people in the six stricken
countries. The US has offered more than 200,000 tonnes. The EU, the US
Agency for International Development (USAid), the World Food Programme,
the World Health Organisation and the UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation have all been urged by the US government to publicly
endorse the safety of the food, which is eaten in more than 35
countries. The EU has refused.

"We have been pushed around by the way the Americans have put pressure
on this issue," the EU development commissioner, Poul Nielson, told

But the three countries who have put conditions on the food - and are
preparing to mill it themselves - are angry at the pressure tactics used
by the US, which has refused to offer conventional food or to mill the

"We cannot be so irresponsible so as to risk the lives of innocent
people," Mundia Sikatana, Zambia's agriculture minister, said. "We don't
need to engage in biotechnology at this stage. If we engage in GM our
exports will be thrown overboard and that will cost thousands of jobs"

Non-government groups at the Johannesburg conference joined the row

Robert Vint, of Genetic Food Alert, said: "It is only because the US can
prevent the World Food Programme from purchasing available non-GM food
from southern nations that it is able to tell countries that they must
buy GM maize, that they must buy it from the US and that it must be

Friends of the Earth said the jury was still out on GM foods and African
countries should not be forced to accept the supplies. "Africans should
choose what they eat, not have someone else decide for them," its
spokesman, Nnimo Bassey, said.

But Andrew Natsios, the administrator of USAid, told reporters: "It's
frightening people into thinking there is something wrong with the food
... and the consequence of it is that the relief effort is slowing down.
It is very disturbing to me that some of the groups that are opposed to
[genetically modified food] have chosen a famine to make their political

Yesterday the World Bank announced that it was to set up a comprehensive
study yet of the risks and opportunities of using GM and other farming
systems in poor countries. It is expected to last three years.

It is to be co-chaired by Dr Robert Watson, the bank's chief scientist,
who was ousted as chairman of the UN's inter-governmental panel on
climate change in May by the US government and the Exxon oil company,
because of his remarks about the potential severity of global warming.

The study was broadly welcomed by environmental groups, who urged the
bank to take into account social factors and called on governments to
put a moratorium on commercialising GM crops until the bank had reported

Meanwhile, small-scale farmers were pushed yesterday into the forefront
of the debate about the future of GM crops in Africa by the companies
and non-governmental groups which are lobbying in force.

"I was given some GM maize seeds by Monsanto and they have done very
well. I am very pleased. They save time and money," said George Phanto,
a farm leader from KwaZulu Natal province.

But Samuel Togo, a Tanzanian farmer who came to Johannesburg with an
African grassroots organisation, was more cautious. "I have heard of GM
seeds. I do not understand them, but I do not think they are good. I
want to farm organically because it is better for the soil".

More than 150 people from the biotech industry are in Johannesburg.
Monsanto yesterday said it had been lobbying ministers, African MPs and
and government delegations. NGOs, with little access to the ministers
and delegations, are trying to build alliances to oppose the planting of
GM crops.

GM food in Africa has been slow to take off, but hi-tech maize and
cotton is now grown commercially in South Africa, with GM soya likely to
be approved next week. GM cotton should be approved in Kenya and Uganda
by the next growing season and Zimbabwe has conducted trials, according
to Monsanto, which has been buying up large seed companies in Africa as
a way to promote its GM seeds.


2. The REAL reasons why Africa is refusing GM food and crops...

EXTRACT: 'We, the undersigned delegates of African countries
participating in the 5th Extraordinary Session of the Commission on
Genetic Resources, 8 - 12 June 1998, Rome, strongly object that the
image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant
multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe,
environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us.'

Statement from all the African delegates (except South Africa) to FAO
negotiations on the International Undertaking for Plant Genetic
Resources, June 1998 [published in the European media in late July 1998]

(Document begins)
During the past few weeks European citizens have been exposed to an
aggressive publicity campaign in major European newspapers trying to
convince the reader that the world needs genetic engineering to feed the
hungry. Organised and financed by Monsanto, one of the world's biggest
chemical companies, and titled "Let the Harvest Begin", this campaign
gives a totally distorted and misleading picture of the potential of
genetic engineering to feed developing countries. We, the undersigned
delegates of African countries participating in the 5th Extraordinary
Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources, 8 - 12 June 1998, Rome,
strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries
is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology
that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically
beneficial to us. It is time to look at some of the facts about the
company behind this

Monsanto is one of the world's largest pesticide companies. During the
past two years only it spent over US$6000 million to take control over
other seed and biotechnology companies and is now the major industrial
player in this field. Its major focus is not to protect the environment,
but to develop crops that can resist higher doses of its best-selling
chemical weedkiller "Roundup". Rather than stretching a helping hand to
farmers, Monsanto threatens them with lawsuits and jail. In the USA, the
company employs detectives to find and bring to court those farmers that
save Monsanto soybean seeds for next year's planting. Backed by patent
law, the company demands the rights to inspect the farmers' fields to
check whether they practise agriculture according to Monsanto conditions
and with Monsanto chemicals. Rather than developing technology that
feeds the world, Monsanto uses genetic engineering to stop farmers from
replanting seed and further develop their agricultural systems. It has
spent US$18000 million to buy a company owning a patent on what has
become known as Terminator Technology: seed that can be planted only
once and dies in the second generation. The only aim of this technology
is to force farmers back to the Monsanto shop every year, and to destroy
an age old practice of local seed saving that forms the basis of food
security in our countries. In "Let the Harvest Begin" the Europeans are
asked to give an unconditional green light to gene technology so that
chemical corporations such as Monsanto can start harvesting their
profits from it. We do not believe that such companies or gene
technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in
the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the
diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems
that our farmers have developed for millennia and that it will thus
undermine our capacity to feed ourselves. In particular, we will not
accept the use of Terminator or other gene technologies that kill the
capacity of our farmers to grow the food we need. We invite European
citizens to stand in solidarity with Africa in resisting these gene
technologies so that our diverse and natural harvests can continue and
grow. We agree and accept that mutual help is needed to further improve
agricultural production in our countries. We also believe that Western
science can contribute to this. But it should be done on the basis of
understanding and respect for what is already there. It should be
building on local knowledge, rather than replacing and destroying it.

And most
importantly: it should address the real needs of our people, rather than
serving only to swell the pockets and control of giant industrial
Jean Marie Fodoun, Cameroun
George A. Agbahungba, Benin
Paul Therence Senghor, Senegal
Koffi Goti, Cote d'Ivoire
Mokosa Madende, Congo Democ
Jean Jacques Rakotonalala, Madagascar
Juvent Baramburiye, Burundi
Worku Damena, Ethiopia
Gietaturn Mulat, Ethiopia
M.S. Harbi, Sudan
Eltahir Ibrahim Mohamed, Sudan
Maria A. Calane da Silva, Mozambique
Kohna Nganara Ngawara, Tchad
Nkeoua Gregoire, Congo
Mugorewera Drocella, Rwanda
H. Yahia-Cafrif, Algeria
Abebe Demissie, Ethiopia
G.P. Mwila, Zambia
Dr S.H. Raljtsogle, Lesotho
Naceu Hamza, Tunisia
Hambourne Mellas, Morocco
Elizabeth Matos, Angola
Tewolde Berhane Gebre Egziabher, Ethiopia

Additional statement by Zimbabwean delegate:
"Africa should not be used as a testing ground for technologies and
products which have been developed elsewhere. We reserve our sovereign
right to test these technologies ourselves, examine their effectiveness
and compatibility to the environment in our region." (Document ends)

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